(Bloomberg) -- “Game of Thrones” captured the Emmy Award for best drama series, a record-tying victory that puts the fantasy epic in rare company in the annals of TV history.
“Thrones” won best drama series on Sunday night for the fourth time, a feat accomplished by just four other shows: “Hill Street Blues,” “The West Wing,” “L.A. Law” and “Mad Men.”
The triumph followed a polarizing eighth season, with critics and fans complaining that the show had lost momentum. Some viewers even circulated a petition demanding HBO reshoot the final episodes. But that didn’t bother Emmy voters, who also handed the show prizes for supporting actor, editing and sound mixing.
Though the win was widely expected, it still bolsters HBO at a crucial time. The network will be the heart of a new streaming platform from parent AT&T Inc. that will compete with services from Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Walt Disney Co. and Apple Inc.
HBO earned the most wins -- and nominations -- of any network, capturing more than 30 prizes in total, including nine during Sunday’s show. The network also won best writing of a drama series for “Succession,” best miniseries for “Chernobyl” and best variety talk show for John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”
After ushering in the age of prestige TV two decades ago, HBO now finds itself locked in a war for talent and attention. Apple plans to introduce a new streaming service in November that will feature many stars who have worked with HBO, while Netflix, Amazon and Disney are increasing their output each year.
Disney planted a flag early in the show with a commercial for its Disney+ streaming service, calling out its ownership of hit machines like Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar. Apple also bought commercials for TV+, teasing the series “Morning Show” and “Dickinson.”
The crop of winners Sunday night reflected the new competitive landscape. HBO, Amazon, Netflix and Disney’s FX accounted for almost all of the prizes, while traditional broadcast networks captured just two.
Amazon captured the top comedy prize for the second year in a row thanks to “Fleabag,” a dark comedy about a young British woman struggling to get her life together. Based on a one-woman play first performed by creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show also won for comedy writing, directing and best actress.
Waller-Bridge, who has adapted the play into a British TV show and a Broadway performance, won for her writing and as an actress. (She was also nominated for her writing in best drama series for “Killing Eve.”)
“Fleabag” upset “Veep,” which had won the Emmy the last three times it was nominated. “Veep” wasn’t eligible last year, and a win would have put it in rare company. Just four shows have won best comedy series at least four times.
Amazon won two other comedy prizes -- for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a comedy about a New York housewife turned standup comic. “Maisel,” which captured the top comedy prize last year, was recognized for supporting actor and actress.
All those victories pushed Amazon past Netflix, the streaming service that set off the latest scramble for projects and talent. The company once again failed to win any of the top three prizes. But while Amazon won more awards Sunday night, Netflix did capture the second-most wins of any network in total -- after HBO.
The streaming service’s “Ozark” won two prizes, including best directing for a drama series, while “Bandersnatch” won best movie -- a first for an interactive show.
The TV Academy aped the film academy in staging an awards show without a formal host, though it had an announcer providing humorous running commentary. The show aired live on Fox from downtown Los Angeles.
Many of the winners used their moment in the spotlight to comment on social issues, including the gender pay gap, transgender rights and immigration. Billy Porter, star of FX’s “Pose,” became the first openly gay black man to win the award for best actor in a drama series.
“I am so overjoyed that I have lived long enough to see this day,” Porter said.
For all the fuss about streaming competitors, HBO has remained a dominant force at the Emmys year in and year out. It has earned the most nominations every year but one this century, winning best drama series six times and best comedy series four times.
“Thrones,” based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, has been a phenomenon since the moment it premiered. The show has inspired fans to learn Dothraki, the language of a nomadic tribe on the show, and name their daughters after two characters, Arya and Khaleesi. It has been the most pirated show in the world for years, and its viewership peaked at 19 million viewers this past season.
The show has won nearly 60 Emmys since it began its run in 2011 and is the most-watched program in the history of HBO. The network licensed the brand to Johnnie Walker scotch and Adidas sneakers.
Its success has given HBO some comfort during a couple years of turmoil. AT&T, the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., acquired HBO’s parent company and mandated the network increase its output of shows to keep up with Netflix.
AT&T has also recrafted HBO as the centerpiece of a new streaming service, HBO Max, that will feature a wider range of programming than HBO has historically aired, including kids’ programs, young adult dramas and reality TV. That push led to the departure of longtime HBO chief, Richard Plepler, as well as more than a dozen of his lieutenants.
Distraught fans and awards voters won’t have to say goodbye for the “Game of Thrones” universe, though. HBO is now making prequels to the series.
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